The blaze engulfed a congregation of eunuchs at a community centre
Reminiscent of the 2006 Meerut fire that killed fifty people and injured more than hundred others gathered at a fair, a blaze broke out at a community centre in east Delhi's Nand Nagri on Sunday, where about 5,000 people had come together. Officials said it was a congregation of eunuchs.
Tragedy: The scene at the site. Pic/MiD DAY
The programme was being held under the banner of Akhil Bhartiya Kinnar Samaj Sarvdharma for three days. Sunday was the last day of the function when the fire broke out, reportedly after a short circuit. "There was only one entry-exit gate at the venue. After the fire broke out, a stampede was also reported, which caused more causalities," said a fire official.
Under control: Police personnel and locals at the site of the fire incident
at Nand Nagri in east Delhi on Sunday. Pic/mid day
Chief fire officer AK Sharma said that the department did not give a no-objection certificate (NOC) to the organiser. "The fire was brought under control after extensive work of four to five hours. There were traffic snarls in the area and the narrow lane had become an obstacle in rescue operation. We received multiple calls in this respect. 12 engines were sent to the site. Due to cloud of smoke most of the people could not escape," he said.
Soniya Singh, the organiser of the event, said that it was a religious function. "We were offering prayers and were asking for health and wealth for all from the almighty. In the meantime this incident occurred," she said.
"I was going to attend a wedding when I witnessed the incident. I saw the policemen dragging out six bodies," said Ravi, an eyewitness.
Bimla Devi, who lives in the area, said that she saw a thick cloud of smoke emanating from the community centre and a little later noticed the blaze. "People were running helter-skelter, shouting for help," she said.
A senior police official, who did not wish to be named, said that police will lodge an FIR against the organiser at a local police station. "They did not take permission from any of the government authorities. The organiser is the responsible for all this," he said.
"Those injured were rushed to three hospitals - RML, GTB and LNJP. Two were taken to LNJP; one of them was declared brought dead. 35 people were taken to GTB; 12 of them died. One person was taken to RML," said additional DCP (east) BK Singh.
Meanwhile, eunuchs staged a protest against the police and fire department following the tragedy. They accused the departments of trying to 'lower' the death toll in the incident.
At least 50 people, mostly women, were killed on April 11, 2006 in a major fire accident in Meerut, 65 km from Delhi. While one version said that the fire was caused by a short circuit, another account said that it began in a Chinese shop where noodles were being cooked. The fire spread within five minutes and as there were only one entrance and one exit because of the air-conditioned hall, the children and women got trapped in it as the fire blazed rapidly.